Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Grace and Holiness
And Jesus said, "I do not condemn you, either.
Go. From now on sin no more."
The story is familiar. A woman, caught in adultery is brought before Jesus. The pharisees ask Him what they should do with her, thinking they have trapped Him. If He instructs them to stone her, He will be arrested by the Romans for usurping their law, but if He instructs them to release her, He will be violating the Law of Moses. Jesus' response is, of course, brilliant, as He states, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." One by one the quieted pharisees walk away and the only One who was truly sinless extends forgiveness to the woman. And then He tells her to "sin no more."
How exactly was she supposed to do this? She wasn't suddenly perfect because of an encounter with Jesus, was she? Was Jesus implying by His command that she had a choice of how she lived her life?
It is in this one command of Jesus that we see grace and holiness meet. Grace and holiness are strange partners. Holiness demands justice, which in this woman's case meant stoning. But grace displays the gospel, giving her life back to her. So does grace nullify holiness? How in the world do those two get along because grace wins every time, doesn't it?
I think many of us live our lives believing that the grace of God, given to us through Jesus and His sacrifice, has nullified the holiness of God. Grace has turned a Master/Slave relationship into a Father/Child one, which is more casual, more accepting, more forgiving. Here's how we rationalize it: God is holy and we cannot meet His standards. Therefore Jesus stepped into our place, took on our sin and paid the price. We are helpless because of sin, but since God loves us and chooses to shower us with grace upon grace, He no longer expects us to live up to His standards. He knows that in heaven we will be free of our sin nature but until then, He's willing to extend grace to us to get us to eternity. After all, His grace is greater than all our sin, right?
Paul asked and answered it this way in Romans 6: "Are we to continue in sin so that grace should increase? May it never be!" A casual attitude toward sin comes from a misunderstanding of grace and holiness. It comes from an entitled mindset that says, sin is no longer that big of a deal to God because I'm covered by Jesus. Wrong.
Let's jump back to the scene of Jesus and the woman. He tells her that He will not condemn her and then He says, "Go. From now on sin no more." Her actions that brought her to that point were sinful. He was instructing her to walk away from her sin. To choose righteousness. To not identify herself by the sin of her past, to not embrace the brokenness of her sinful choices, but to walk in the newness of life which is basically choosing God's way over her way. Holiness.
In Leviticus, over and over God instructs His people to be holy, because He is holy. He wants us to set our eyes on Him, to imitate Him, to walk in His footsteps and to abandon our sin. How can we possibly do that, you ask. We can walk in holiness because of God's grace.
We are able to walk in holiness because of the payment Jesus made before the Holy God of the universe. The truth of the gospel is life transforming because it empowers us to choose righteousness and holiness over sin...and God expects us to make this choice. Not only has He cleared your account, but He has given you His Word to instruct you through life and His Spirit to help you understand. You should not remain, crawling through life as a caterpillar, but rather He is transforming you into something way more beautiful.
God's holiness brings us to our knees for salvation. But His grace does not nullify His holiness - it is His holiness that transforms us. Let us not forget the holiness of our God when we approach the throne of grace. Let us choose to present ourselves holy and acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service. Let us choose to go and sin no more because living within that instruction is the fastest way to see true transformation in our lives. And let us commit to remember God in His holiness on a daily basis, as a constant reminder of the grace that has been showered upon us and the call to a better life.